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An Evening With Shirley MacLaine And Jack Black

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by Leonard Maltin
June 30, 2011 4:30 AM
3 Comments
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That, she explained, was one example of how she had to rely on her own reserve of confidence. Another was early on, when she was cast by producer Hal Wallis in the next-to-last Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis picture, Artists and Models, not a happy experience for any of its stars. For one staircase scene in the candy-colored Technicolor picture she was wearing an eye-catching yellow outfit; what’s more, the scene favored her, and when Lewis sensed that during a run-through he walked off the set, went to his dressing room and wouldn’t come out! A reporter from Movieline, Louis Virtel, filed an accurate report on the q&a and some of MacLaine’s best anecdotes, which you can read HERE.

Although his career isn’t nearly as long as Shirley’s Jack has made so many appearances in movies, TV shows and pilots, online videos, etc. that it would be difficult to keep track of them all. (He revealed that his first appearance on-camera was in a videogame commercial when he was 13 years old.) Just for kicks, I started out the “quiz” by asking if it were true or false that he had a part in the notorious 1995 Kevin Costner movie Waterworld. To the surprise of many in the crowd, the answer was True. He played a pilot, and while he’s barely recognizable in the movie, he was on location in Hawaii for quite a long time. This led to an interesting chat about his early days as an actor-for-hire, and what it was like to go out on cold auditions.

When I quizzed him on the name the song he sang at the end of his breakthrough movie, High Fidelity, it took but a moment for him to recall that it was Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” Sure enough, someone in the theater called out, “Sing it!” Being the kind of guy he is—and a performer who doesn’t like to disappoint an audience—he belted out a few lines, to great applause. In fact, the sold-out crowd seemed to love everything the two stars had to say.

Jack Black and Shirley MacLaine as they appear in Bernie.

It helps a great deal that Shirley and Jack have formed a mutual admiration society, having enjoyed working together on Bernie. In fact, they’d love to appear in a Broadway musical together. (At one point in the film, Black performs in a school production of The Music Man, singing “76 Trombones.” Fans of his band Tenacious D already know he has a great voice, but I reckon they’ve never heard him do musical theater standards…and he’s terrific.)

As for Bernie, I’m sorry to say that the film is still looking for a distributor. It’s a great showcase for both actors and a fascinating, oddball, story based on a real-life incident about an extremely sociable and well-liked funeral director in Carthage, Texas who was accused of murdering the town’s wealthiest woman, with whom he had forged a friendship that evolved into… something else. Linklater waited twelve years to make the film, after reading an article about the incident and its colorful cast of characters in Texas Monthly magazine. It’s a black comedy (no pun intended) that deliberately blurs the lines between real-life and movie reality, and features another first-rate performance by Matthew McConaughey as the local district attorney who prosecutes the case. Bernie doesn’t deserve to sit on a shelf and I hope it finds its way to an appreciative audience sometime soon. If nothing else, it’s a major credential for both Shirley MacLaine and Jack Black.

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3 Comments

  • Craig T | July 3, 2011 5:26 AMReply

    Of course Artists and Models was a "candy-colored Technicolor picture". Frank Tashlin directed it! While none, in my opinion, are more interestingly colored than Cinderfella, they all had that cartoon quality.

  • Jim Reinecke | July 1, 2011 7:12 AMReply

    Well, Bob, the cretins running the show in Tinseltown these days are too busy churning out mindless bilge for the patronage of nitwits who can't use punctuation and capitlization or who threaten to commit suicide if they have to watch a quality film (see the "Comments" section for TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON). If you need Cliff notes to understand GO, DOG, GO! and have a little disposable income, these idiots will green-light some piece of junk to rake in that money.

  • Bob Lindstrom | June 30, 2011 6:59 AMReply

    L.A. has gone truly demented since I left, hasn't it? When a film starring Black, Maclaine, and directed by Linklater can't find a distributor, we've truly descended to the recycled comic book standard of film green-lighting.

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